How Did John McGeehan Survive?

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How did John McGeehan survive? I’d really love to know. I would love to know because in my future police encounters, I’d be thrilled to feel comfortable enough to think I have enough slack during the encounter to be able to drunkenly fire one shot into the air without being riddled with bullets.

(Not that I would do such a thing. But it’d be nice to feel like I won’t get shot for scratching a vicious itch on my butt cheek in a tense moment.)

America has a problem.

What that problem is, in detail, deserves its own 7000-plus word essay. As a black man, I fear the slightest thing going wrong in a police encounter rapidly deteriorating into my imminent death. In that essay, I’d cover how it may have become this way. Why it is this way. What can be done. Etc.

But I’m not going to do that, here. Posts like these are aimed to highlight direct cases that demonstrate the problem and, ultimately, call for some reflection. 

In August 2014, we were told an unarmed Mike Brown was shot dead by Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, for charging a him after fleeing from a struggle.

Wilson cited his “fear” as to why he unloaded his entire pistol towards Mike Brown, striking him six deadly times. He claimed it was because of Brown’s size and strength that he felt he had no other choice but to use deadly force. The media and many news-watchers alike, ate that narrative up. Eventually, he was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Missouri powers-that-be.

Last night, I watched a video of a white gentleman, Edward Michael Caruth, (who did eventually die later from stungun injuries) violently fight police without them so much of attempting to reach for their service weapons. The video (shown below) made me think about Mike Brown. Caruth did everything Wilson claimed Brown did. He fought the police. He charged them. He swung at their faces several times. He fled. Caruth was a large male, just like Brown, yet he was not unloaded on with a pistol.

I ask myself, often: Why is it that I’m more likely to be shot and killed than someone who is white?

I can’t put into words for you how scary that reality is for me, personally. Anytime I see police lights, my skin tightens.

If that’s not enough, exactly eight months ago, this frightening reality hit very close to home for me. Right here in North Philadelphia there were two Philadelphia Police incidents that took place within a span of 7 days. The incidents were in the same police district, only 1 mile and approximately 5 driving minutes from one another.

One incident turned fatal, the other ended with the suspect being apprehended and charged without fatality.

The two incidents only 1 mile, 5 mins apart from one another. A.) Brandon Tate-Brown B.) John McGeehan.

The two incidents only 1 mile, 5 mins apart from one another. A.) Brandon Tate-Brown B.) John McGeehan.

The two incidents in their different circumstances explicitly demonstrate a general pattern in America; a pattern that has sparked a wave of protests, Twitter hashtags, and an entirely revamped civil rights movement.

In the first incident: 26-year-old, Brandon Tate-Brown was killed by the Philadelphia Police during a traffic stop. The second incident: The same department deescalated a wild encounter with 55-year-old John McGeehan.

Take a wild guess at who was white, and who was black…

The first incident happened on December 15, 2014. Mr. Tate-Brown was dropping a friend off at her brother’s house when only a handful of minutes later, he was gunned down by Officer Nicholas Carrelli. (Police account in photo below.)

Original Police version of what happened to Brandon Tate-Brown.

Original Police version of what happened to Brandon Tate-Brown.

After six months of being told repeatedly, and authoritatively, by the Philadelphia Police Department that Tate-Brown struggled with police and subsequently reached into the passenger side of his Dodge Charger for a gun, the Philadelphia Police suddenly recanted their story in June 2015, admitting there was no evidence of Tate-Brown reaching into the passenger door. In fact, they released a grainy video that showed definitively that Tate-Brown was actually running behind his vehicle when he was gunned down from the street onto the sidewalk.

He never once had a gun on his person.

Despite the change in story and shady circumstances, the Philadelphia Police allowed the shooting officer back onto the street shortly thereafter — even before the investigations were complete.

Seven days after that on December 22, 2014, another police/civilian encounter happened. Mr. John McGeehan showed up to a North Philadelphia bar drunkenly wielding two pistols. With five cops already on the scene investigating an earlier incident, an instant standoff took place.

Despite three extra cops on scene (compared to Brandon Tate- Brown’s two), two extra guns in suspect’s possession (compared to Brandon’s zero), one extra shot fired by subject (compared to Brandon’s zero), complete with a struggle and refusal to cooperate with the police,  McGeehan survived.

How the hell?

John Megeehan account.

John Megeehan account.

So, what was the difference between the two incidents? (besides McGeehan clearly being more of a practical threat than Tate-Brown and surviving)

 You tell me.

The incidents were both in the middle of the night and both men were non-cooperative at one point or another.

The man who was killed was approached by the police on what should have been a routine traffic stop, and the man who survived belligerently rolled up on five cops like a Wild West gunslinger.

I reached out to The Philadelphia Police Department’s District 15 (where both of these incidents’ jurisdictions are within) to seek an opinion from the patrol men who were involved’s superiors. I told lieutenant Mark Overwise that a lot of black residents in the 15th district have explicitly felt that they are being policed by a racist police department. They’ve felt this way for years. I asked him how (if) race played a role in these incidents and the lieutenant declined to respond. (I had also briefly mentioned a couple traffic stops caught on camera in the same district)

 “Regardless of what I say, people already have strong opinions and I believe my words may incite more acrimony.” Overwise said to me in an e-mail. “I respectfully decline to comment however due to the incendiary nature of these cases.”

While I can’t expect anyone at the police department to admit to a subconscious racial bias in their workplace, I can tell you this much as fact:

Both Darren Wilson in Ferguson, and Nicholas Carrelli in North Philly both cited a fear for their lives in facing an unarmed Brown and Tate-Brown, while the officers facing Caruth and McGeehan apparently did not feel threatened enough to employ deadly force.

It’s becoming more difficult for people to deny that the way someone looks plays a part in an officer’s assessment of what is a “threat” and how they’re treated.

Ultimately, many will tell you explicitly, that John McGeehan, and others in similar positions survived their encounters (or at least weren’t immediately filled with bullets) because they benefit from a healthy dose of the provocative not-so-new term that has gained more attention in recent months.

White privilege.

Tell me what you think.

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